June 24, 2024

A former Atlanta Braves player is urging the team to re-sign him, if only for a single day, in order to secure a pension he has pursued for over four decades.

Gary Cooper, a 67-year-old native of Garden City, devoted himself to baseball, spending numerous seasons in the minor leagues with the AA Savannah Braves, as reported by WTOC. Baseball was his passion, cultivated since childhood. Cooper reminisced, “That’s all we did, played baseball… That was our thing growing up. From then on, that was the love of my life.” He cherished the opportunity to play at home for three years, considering it a highlight of his career.

Gary Cooper missed out on an MLB pension by one day. Now, 44 years later, a  petition is championing for that to be rectified | CNN

In the summer of 1980, Cooper received an unexpected call-up to the Atlanta Braves from the legendary Hank Aaron. Recalling the moment, Cooper shared, “I said, ‘Man, you crazy.’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ So when I got home, my father told me. My mother and father already knew before I did.” Making his major league debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the reigning World Series champions, Cooper recounted a remarkable play in the bottom of the 9th inning, where he made a crucial throw to second base to secure an out and end the game.

However, Cooper’s time with the Braves was short-lived. The season ended abruptly, leaving him unaware that he fell just one service day short of qualifying for a pension. To be eligible for a pension from Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association, players must accumulate 43 days on an active roster.

Reflecting on his situation, Cooper expressed frustration, saying, “When they called me up, I did what I was supposed to do, and right now, today, I can’t understand why I got sent back down.” Investigative journalist Dave Mesrey delved into Cooper’s story, discovering that the pension requirements had changed the same year Cooper entered the MLB.

“They changed the minimum requirement from four years to 43 days, so when Gary Cooper and others who debuted in Major League Baseball in 1980 or later, they only needed 43 days to qualify for the minimum pension,” Mesrey explained.

Despite appealing to the MLB and Players Association twice and being denied a pension, Cooper is now seeking to be signed by the Braves for just one day to meet the qualification criteria.

“Because it has happened. Mr. Aaron did it back in the day and… Satchel Paige never got to play, but he got his pension. That’s history. You know, why can’t it happen the same for me?” he questioned. “Just that day would be awesome. It would be just like being drafted again.”

Former Braves player asking team to re-sign him for 1 day so he can get MLB  pension

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson voiced his support for Cooper, highlighting the precedent set by the Braves when they signed pitching legend Satchel Paige to help him reach his pension. “We’re hoping the Braves do the right thing,” he remarked.

In addition to the mayor’s backing, over 10,000 individuals have signed a Change.org petition urging the Braves to re-sign Cooper.

“Just one day. For the two and a half hours that is how long the game lasts, just forget about those 44 years, just for that day,” Cooper expressed.

The Change.org petition underscores Cooper’s challenges, noting his struggles with homelessness in recent years, his lack of transportation, housing, savings, and difficulty in paying his phone bill each month.

WTOC has reached out to the Braves for comment on the matter.

 

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